Radioactive Waste Management

Brexit could lead to ‘fracking free for all’ resulting in surge of radioactive waste

A new analysis by Greenpeace’s own Energydesk has warned that fracking could be fast-tracked across the nation if Britain votes to leave the EU tomorrow.

Additionally, the charity has warned that a Brexit could put current regulations at risk, stating that “almost all” of them could be eradicated come June 24.

The vast majority of fracking rules originate from the EU, with no less than 15 European Directives deriving from Brussels.

According to Greenpeace:

Most of the changes would require only secondary legislation. In some cases rules could simply be more easily ignored, without fear of action by European courts.

“Regulations on water use and contamination, the safe use of chemicals, air pollution, noise, climate change, biodiversity and environmental liability are among the numerous EU-wide agreements enforced by UK regulators.”

In the past the British government has led the way in battling against the EU’s environmental laws over fracking, and in, 2014 blocked a law that would have required environmental impact assessments for shale gas projects.

Boris Johnson has previously offered his views on fracking, saying that “no stone should be left unfracked” in 2015.

A largely undocumented consequence of fracking however, is the large amounts of radioactive waste that the process produces.

Referred to as an “orphan” waste in the US, fracking produces large amounts of by-products, including brine, sludge, rock and used equipment.

It has long been known that soils and rock containing oil and gas deposits also contain large amounts of naturally occurring radioactive material including:

  • Uranium
  • Thorium
  • Radium
  • Potassium-40
  • Lead-210
  • Polonium-210

In 2012 researchers at the University of Iowa obtained a 200 litre drum of fracking wastewater and measured it for existing levels of radioisotopes.

Estimates were then made for the total radioactivity that would be produced within the fluids in the future – if left within a closed space.

Tests confirmed the presence of a number of radioisotopes and were able to determine that the radioactivity would continue to increase for more than 100 years due to the formation of the decay products of Lead-210 and Polonium-210.

Earlier in the month, it was revealed by The Guardian that UK fracking firm, Ineos, plans to dump large amounts for fracking wastewater into the sea.

Andy has worked as a freelance journalist for a number of years and has been published in some of the UK’s top newspapers. He is now the editor Commercial Waste Magazine and contributes to a large selection of headlines and blog articles on the site.

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